The National Trust is an organization that has taken over the care of some great houses in England, and we went to one Wednesday. (FYI, when I return I might need to be hospitalized, I’ve done so much in the last three weeks.). Stourhead House is one of the great homes of England and Melissa and I really enjoyed our day there, starting with a tour of the house, and then walking through the lovely grounds.
There is a great push all over England to commemorate WWI, and Stourhead house has taken on “The Story of Harry.” (Or maybe it’s always been that way, but the signs seem very fresh, and it makes sense given the other things I’ve seen as I’ve gone through other places.) So Harry was the only son of the couple who took on the revitalization of Stourhead house in 1902. (The Hoare family had built the house in the 18th century, and it was passed along. The guy before Henry Hoare and his wife Alda was a bit of a gambler and he had let things go, so it was a fixer upper. The grounds have been taking shape for a long time though, and some of the trees are just massive.). Anyway, Harry was much beloved, and the signs talk about his and his family’s life there, but 1914 arrives and young Harry enlists, and like many young men of England, dies in the war. His family considers moving, but decides to stay, because all their memories of him are there. The details of the stories put a human face on all those. WWI memorials that are in every town.
It was a story that was repeated both in small homes and great houses all over England from 1914-1917. Many of the large estates left without an heir were sold, and death duties were often so much that the estate was broken up and the house torn down once it deteriorated, but then our hero the National Trust comes along. The Trust has saved many of these homes and now they are like our national parks, places that anyone can visit (though they do charge admission, you don’t keep gardens like that going without some coin.) Stourhead was turned over to the Trust in 1948, with the provision that direct descendants could always live there, and indeed we spotted a tv and a drinks trolley in one of rooms that is still used.
The grounds (also called the park) at Stourhead are incredible. Thousands of acres, filled with trees, a lake, bridges, paths, and several small temples. It is so peaceful, with birds singing and fresh air that it puts you in a very peaceful and quiet frame of mind. I think we could have stayed there all day. We kind of did, really, once you add in lunchtime and tea time!